It's been four long years since Garbage released "Beautifulgarbage," their oddball blend of pop-rock and electronica. And somehow the energy is still there in their fourth album "Bleed Like Me," an amped up rock album that takes Garbage back to its musical roots.
Not that it came easy -- frontwoman Shirley Manson has talked about how the band barely made it through "Bleed Like Me," because of (what else?) band infighting. Fortunately, they seem to have channeled that energy to their music. It's obvious from the start that their music has gone back to rock, as the combustible riffs of "Bad Boyfriend" erupt around Manson's throaty vocals.
The songs that follow are steady if unsurprising. Garbage's sound feels like the band has worked out their own niche, like a slightly worn slipper. It's loud and rock-y with some catchy rhythms woven in. These are not simple songs, though -- for example, "Who Do You Love Me" is a betrayal/love song, where Manson accuses the lover of sleeping with a pal one moment, then wails, "Why do you love me... it's driving me crazy!"
Garbage dips into sweeping rock melodies, ballads and electronic sputters here and there, and those touches keep the electrorock from ever feeling monotonous. But the amps and roaring guitars rule the music, much as they did in 1998's "Version 2.0." Sometimes those guitars feel like they're soaring to epic heights, but disappointingly they always get reined in at the last minute.
Fortunately, if the music seems restrained, then the singer does not. Shirley Manson hasn't lost her power as a vocalist; even when her vocals are distorted or distant, she is still the center of the music. She wails, she purrs, she yells, she murmurs. And it all works.
Garbage doesn't disappoint in their fourth album, "Bleed Like Me." Perhaps the album's main flaw is that they don't forge any really new turf. But purely as a follow-up, it's a darn good album.